Wednesday, December 4, 2013

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Anxiety to Author a Life in Shirley Jackson’s *The Haunting of Hill House*

            Referring to Foucauldian philosophy, feminist author Mariam Fraser states that “the author appears in discourse at a ‘privileged moment of individualization in the history of ideas, knowledge, literature, philosophy and the sciences’” where “the subject position ‘Author’ contributes to the production of individuality” (8, 9).  Implicit within Fraser’s arguments is the notion that authorship is not only an act of creation but an act that involves power relations and to be author means to engage in battle with previous discourses in order to make room for the author’s voice.  In the act of creating a text, the author also produces a self that is “both target and object of power” because “the speaking subject, as a discursive site, is implicated in the very same power relationships that allow the theoretical text to function” (Fraser 6).  This idea of power relationships that an author, especially a woman author, engages in is at the core of Sandra Gilbert’s and Susan Gubar’s arguments in The Madwoman in the Attic.  Expanding on Harold Bloom’s notion of “anxiety of influence,” Gilbert and Gubar describe and explain the obstacles that women writers face upon entering the world of literary discourse, terming the experience as “the anxiety of authorship.”  Gilbert and Gubar claim that while Bloom’s notion of the “artist’s ‘anxiety of influence’” illustrates the paradigmatic relationship between current and past authors, the model “is intensely (even exclusively) male, and necessarily patriarchal” (Norton 2025).  What Gilbert and Gubar point out is that Bloom’s model of poetic influence considers only the power relationships that male authors engage in; power relationships that equate differently for women authors.  According to these two feminists, “the ‘anxiety of influence’ that a male poet experiences is felt by a female poet as an even more primary ‘anxiety of authorship’ – a radical fear that she cannot create, that because she can never become a ‘precursor’ the act of writing will isolate or destroy her” (Norton 2026).  This anxiety of authorship illuminates that “’inferiorization’ mark[s] the woman writer’s struggle for artistic self-definition and differentiate her efforts at self-creation from those of her male counterpart” (Gilbert and Gubar, Norton 2027).  The woman writer’s anxiety is caused by her having to struggle against the patriarchal culture and tradition that dominate the society and world in which she exists.  As author and person, a woman struggles to define a self outside of the prescriptive role imposed upon her by patriarchal ideals.  Thus, in order to gain authorship and succeed in creation, a woman writer must not only undergo the struggle for self-definition but must also redefine the ideals applied on Woman.
            The anxiety of authorship Gilbert and Gubar delineate is, in many ways, parallel to the anxiety encountered by the Female Gothic heroine.  In the tradition of the Female Gothic genre, the female protagonist is threatened by “the authority of a powerful male figure or his female surrogate” (Punter and Byron 279).  As such, the plot focuses on the female protagonist’s struggle against this authority and “her experiences are represented as a journey leading towards the assumption of some kind of agency and power in the patriarchal world” (Punter and Byron 279).  Agency and power equates to authorship for the Female Gothic heroine because her success against patriarchal domination leads to the creation of an autonomous self.  However, success is, for the female protagonist, practically non-existent.  As Gilbert and Gubar illuminate, within patriarchal society, a woman is represented as either angel or monster where a woman who defies the angelic role is seen as the inconstant monster.  In other words, female autonomy is viewed as a mark of monstrosity, which leads to the isolation and even destruction of the autonomous woman.  The similarity between the plight of Gilbert and Gubar’s woman writer and that of the Female Gothic heroine is apparent in Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House.  In Jackson’s novel, female protagonist Eleanor Vance embarks on a journey to author a self, a life free from the domineering influence of her mother and sister.  Eleanor’s mother and sister function as patriarchal surrogates who limit and deter agency as they impose patriarchal ideals of woman on Eleanor.  Much like Gilbert and Gubar’s woman author who struggles against the male-dominated literary world, Eleanor struggles to author a self free from patriarchal prescriptions and limitations.  Eleanor’s struggles illustrate how authoring a self is much like authoring a text for the act of self-definition is an act of creation.  Hence, like Gilbert and Gubar’s woman author who must struggle against the misreading of woman by male authors, Eleanor must struggle against the definition of her as “angel of the house.”  In the same way that “the female writer’s battle for self-creation involves her in a revisionary process,” so too must Eleanor revise the role defined for her by her family and society (Gilbert and Gubar, Norton 2027).  And like the woman writer who seeks a model of influence, a precursor that will guide the revisionary process, so too does Eleanor seek a model of female influence that will help revise her socialization.
            According to Gilbert and Gubar, “it is debilitating to be any woman in a society where women are warned that if they do not behave like angels they must be monsters” (Norton 2029).  Male-dominated society expects women to be angelic beings creating a “cultural legacy of subordinate status and an imbalance between the care for others and the care for the self” (O’Grady 91).  Women are expected to take care of the family, expected to remain within the domestic sphere where her only concern is the maintenance of the home.  This expectation and imposed responsibility is a form of confinement, a trap that limits a woman’s agency inculcating her with the idea that her ideal role is within the domain of the home. The confinement is often guised “as an act of love and as a gesture of protection from a hostile world” (Allen 19).  This seems apparent in Eleanor’s sister’s insistence that accepting the invitation to Hill House is unsafe because it might expose her “to savage rites not unconnected with matters Eleanor’s sister deemed it improper for an unmarried young woman to know” (Jackson 4).  But confinement is really limitation that guarantees control.   Certainly, the home becomes Eleanor’s trap which “[owes] largely to the eleven years she spent caring for her invalid mother” (Jackson 3).  Living within her mother’s domain, Eleanor “could not remember ever being truly happy in her adult life; her years with her mother had been built up devotedly around small guilts and small reproaches, constant weariness, and unending despair” (Jackson 3).  Eleanor’s life was limited within the domestic sphere under the oppressive influence of her mother.  Consequently, her choices were limited and the self that she knew is the one her mother had defined for her.  In other words, Eleanor was literally and metaphorically imprisoned.  Literal in the sense that the role of nurse forced on her keeps her from living a life of her own, and metaphorical, because this role prevents her from authoring a self.  Eleanor exemplifies how “limited social expectation creates limited personality” for, as she admits, “she had spent so long alone with no one to love, that it was difficult for her to talk, even casually, to another person without self-consciousness and an awkward inability to find words (Spacks 39, Jackson 3). Eleanor’s self-consciousness and her inability to find words represent the silencing of women, the limiting of their authorial capability which works to secure them into the role of angel of the house.
            As such, the death of her mother is a celebratory moment for Eleanor because it signals her release from domestic chains and her chance to author a story of her own.  As a Female Gothic heroine, the death of Eleanor’s mother signifies her escape from the dungeon of Ideal Womanhood maintained by patriarchy’s female surrogate.  As a woman, the death of the mother signifies Eleanor’s chance at authoring a self without imposition and limitation.  As such, Eleanor views Dr. Montague’s invitation to Hill House as her ticket to freedom and her journey there as “her positive action” because it is the first autonomous decision she had ever made (Jackson 11).  That is, accepting the invitation to spend a summer at Hill House is, for Eleanor, the beginning of a new story, one that she writes on her own.
            Eleanor’s attempt at authoring her own story is evident in the novel on two levels; both within the narrative and the meta-narrative levels.  At the narrative level, Eleanor’s efforts are apparent in her constant daydreaming, her imagining that her journey will lead into a fairytale world where she will live happily ever after.  Repeating the Shakespearean refrain “In delay there lies no plenty,” Eleanor believes that the world “was a time and a land where enchantments were swiftly made and broken” (Jackson 15, 14).  While stopping for lunch at a Romantic country restaurant, Eleanor meets a little girl whom she tells, “insist on your cup of stars; once they have trapped you into being like everyone else you will never see your cup of stars again” (Jackson 15).  Eleanor’s constant drifting into the land of enchantment, of daydreams and of fairytales evinces her imaginative capacity as author; it illustrates her ability to try and create a story of herself.  Furthermore, her shifting from two different worlds, one of reality and one of fantasy, shows her effort at revising her current situation.  Eleanor is ready to take on a new adventure, an adventure which leads to a new world, a new life.  Bold and brave, she looks forward to a new definition, a new Eleanor.  
Ironically, however, the references to fairytales and Romantic pastoral scenes illustrate the domination of male discourse in society.  That is, the fairytales Eleanor alludes to and even the refrain she keeps repeating as her motto are examples of literature written by male authors.  In this sense, Eleanor shows how male authors do not only dominate the world of authorship but they also dominate as authorial precursors; literary models that are not sympathetic to the female situation.
 Eleanor’s tendency to rely on fairytales as the springboard for her own story emphasizes the problematic situation of the woman writer.  In The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan claims, “We did not want to be like [our mothers], and yet what other model did we have?” (Qtd. in Greene 58).  What Friedan highlights is the lack of a model to follow, especially for women authors.  This lack is cause for the anxiety of authorship because as Gilbert and Gubar iterate, the woman author suffers “feelings of alienation from male predecessors coupled with her need for sisterly precursors and successors” (Norton 2027).  This anxiety is emphasized by the woman author’s realization that her “foremothers struggled in isolation that felt like illness, alienation that felt like madness, obscurity that felt like paralysis to overcome the anxiety of authorship that was endemic to their literary subculture” (Gilbert and Gubar, Norton 2028).  Hence, Eleanor’s referencing to male-authored discourse is evidence of her anxiety at creating her own story.  Metaphorically, Eleanor’s fear of authorship is symbolized by her fear to enter the library of Hill House.  Not only does she fear that space because its smell remind her of her mother, but because the space symbolizes the patriarchal culture of literature that she must contend with.   More importantly, this referencing shows how Eleanor, and women writers for that matter, must first assimilate with male discourse in order to negotiate and transcend patriarchal imposition.  That is, “she must be able to interrupt and transform men’s words if she is to alter her world” (Yaeger 159).  And thus, Eleanor must enter the library.  She must overcome her fear for it is the only way that she can become author of her life.
The anxiety of authorship that Eleanor undergoes, while seemingly evident within the narrative, is especially apparent at the meta-level.  As the narrative progresses, Eleanor’s voice begins to dominate the text.  This domination reflects Eleanor’s struggle to define herself in the midst of her company at Hill House, a group that seems to further represent patriarchal ideals, and her struggle to negotiate the haunted space which, as Claire Kahane claims in “The Gothic Mirror,” “functions as a powerful maternal imago” (341).  Eleanor, in authoring a self, must resist the patriarchal trap.  She must resist the paternal figure of Dr. Montague and the brotherly assistance of Luke as they treat her like a delicate flower that must be handled gently.  Even Theo, who may appear like a feminist, is a threat to Eleanor’s developing self as she treats the latter like a daughter that must be tended with care.  While Theo’s social orientation might seem different than Eleanor’s mother and sister, she functions in the same role as a patriarchal surrogate as she imposes on Eleanor’s decisions.  Furthermore, Theo has a debilitating effect on Eleanor because she belittles Eleanor’s capability as a person and makes fun of Eleanor’s story.  Theo represents the apathetic audience of the woman author who, despite being a woman herself, does not support the efforts of her sisters. 
Eleanor, most of all, must resist the trap that Hill House represents.  As a haunted space, it symbolizes another domestic dungeon that threatens her autonomy.  As a patriarchal home, Hill House is manifestation of the threat of male authority and domination.  But most of all, Hill House reminds Eleanor of her experience under the patriarchal surrogacy of her mother.  This threatening reminder literally appears on the walls of the house.  As Eleanor reads the message “ELEANOR COME HOME ELEANOR written in shaky red letters on the wallpaper,” she is overcome with guilt for leaving the maternal domain.  Eleanor’s guilt is driven by several factors.  Firstly, by what she believes as her role in her mother’s death.  But more importantly, by her declaration of autonomy which, in the eyes of patriarchal society, is a monstrous act.  Gilbert and Gubar explain that “in patriarchal culture, female speech and female ‘presumption’ – that is, angry revolt against male domination – are inextricably linked and inevitably daemonic” (Literary Theory 823).  Eleanor’s guilt and the reactions of her fellow paranormal researchers toward her illustrate how “men view the smallest female steps toward autonomy as threatening strides that will strip them of all authority, while women respond to such anxious reaction-formation with a nervous sense of guilt and paradoxical sense of vulnerability” (Gilbert and Gubar, No Man’s Land 66).  Eleanor’s fellow researchers begin to treat her a little more carefully, suspecting her of developing madness.  Eleanor observes, “[t]hey are all carefully avoiding looking at me . . . I have been singled out again, and they are kind enough to pretend it is nothing” (Jackson 143).  While the haunted writing should bring more attention to her, what happens instead is her companions begin to exclude her from conversations which signify the literal silencing of her voice and her existence.
Indeed, as Eleanor dominates the text, her voice begins to sound more guilt-ridden, more anxious, more doubtful and more hesitant.  Unable to tell between reality and illusion, she begins to sound like a madwoman ranting.  Her domination as narrative voice obscures the third-person narrator which seemingly signifies her taking control of her own story.  Eleanor exemplifies “the mysterious power of the character who refuses to stay in her textually ordained ‘place’ and thus generates a story that ‘gets away’ from its author” (Gilbert and Gubar, Literary Theory 819).  Eleanor seems to take hold of the agency and power that comes with authorship.  Defiant, she begins to retaliate and her thoughts begin to sound belligerent.  She will not be silenced and thus, she seeks attention.  Suspicious of her companions, she begins to spy on them, all the while thinking “[w]hen are they going to talk about me?” (Jackson 162).  Eleanor does not only want to have a voice but she also wants to have an audience.  Her involvement in conversation and her position as subject of conversation is, one way or another, confirmation of her creating a story that is heard, a story that engages discourse.  In other words, to be subject and object of conversation means successful authorship of discourse.
But as Gilbert and Gubar illustrate in The Madwoman in the Attic, authorship for a woman does not come without woes because “a life of female rebellion, of ‘significant action,’ is a life that must silenced, a life whose monstrous pen tells a terrible story” (Literary Theory, 824).  Such is the fate Eleanor faces.  As she takes up the metaphoric pen to write her story, as her voice takes over the text, so does her becoming demonic monster manifest.  Believing her to be overly sensitive, prone to madness, Eleanor’s companions decide to send her home.  Without consulting her, they make a decision about her future.  This reaction illustrates how a woman of action, a woman author is isolated from society.  Not only must she be silenced and ignored, but she must be turned away because her agency threatens the patriarchal structure of society. Eleanor’s authorship, however, does not only lead to isolation, but rather to complete destruction.  Seemingly no longer able to endure the brunt of authorship, Eleanor weakens and succumbs to the patriarchal influence that never stopped imposing upon her.  She confesses, “I am disappearing inch by inch into this house, I am going apart a little bit at a time because all this noise is breaking me” (Jackson 149).  She surrenders the power to author her life, the power of autonomy.  She succumbs with the thought, “No stone lions for me . . . no oleanders; I have broken the spell of Hill House and somehow come inside.  I am home” (Jackson 171).  In a final act of autonomy, Eleanor crashes her car towards a tree.  Eleanor dies literally and symbolically.
Eleanor’s death embodies Gilbert and Gubar’s notion of “[t]he ‘killing’ of oneself into an art object” (Literary Theory 823).  Her death and her subsequent disappearance from the text illustrate the silencing of her voice, the death of her authorship.  Her final thoughts illuminate doubt and hesitance about merging with the house, assimilating with the patriarchal influence that she had tried to defy.  Her fate symbolizes the fate of the woman author who, without a sympathetic audience that will listen, without a precursor to follow, and without sisters to fight the battle with, dies in silence and disappears from history.  Eleanor’s fate illustrates how the angel becomes a monster in the eyes of patriarchal society.  She does not only transform into a monster because she defies maternal influence and patriarchal prescription, but rather she is monstrous because she dares to have a voice and dares to take over authorship.  Her isolation, destruction and death represent the main causes for the anxiety of authorship.   Women authors fear authorship because its consequences are fatal to the point of complete eradication.
Gilbert and Gubar states that “[w]hether she is passive angel or an active monster, in other words, the woman writer feels herself to be literally or figuratively crippled by the debilitating alternatives her culture offers her, and the crippling effects of her conditioning sometimes seem to ‘breed’ like sentences of death in the bloody shoes she inherits from her literary foremothers” (Norton 2033).  Indeed, women are offered no choices in a male-dominated society.  If she is angel, then she is nothing.  But if she is monster, then she must be destroyed.  Certainly, Eleanor in The Haunting of Hill House illustrates how these debilitating options render a woman powerless, no matter the situation.  The anxiety of authorship, of authoring an autonomous self is an anxiety rooted in the fear of destruction.  It is an anxiety of fighting a battle that has been lost many times over.  But there is hope yet.  Gilbert and Gubar believe that a path can be made to overcome the anxiety of authorship.   That path can be made through the “[recovery] and [remembrance] of the lost foremothers who could help [women authors] find their distinctive female power” (Norton 2035).  Eleanor does not have to be one of the madwomen in the attic.  Perhaps, resurrection may come in her visiting the dreaded library to become acquainted with the literary foremothers that lay in wait but not in silence.

Works Cited
Allen, Paula Smith. Metamorphosis and the Emergence of the Feminine: A Motif of
            “Difference” in Women’s Writing. New York: Peter Lang, 1999. Print.
Fraser, Mariam. Identity without Selfhood: Simone de Beauvoir and Bisexuality. Cambridge:
            Cambridge UP, 1999. Print.
Gilbert, Sandra M. and Susan Gubar. No Man’s Land: The Place of the Woman Writer in the
Twentieth Century. 3 vols. New Haven: Yale UP, 1988. Print.
---. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. 2nd ed. Malden: Blackwell, 2004. 812-825. Print.
---. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. The Norton Anthology: Theory and Criticism. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch et al. New York: W.W. Norton, 2001. 2023-2035. Print.
Greene, Gayle. Changing the Story: Feminist Fiction and the Tradition. Bloomington: Indiana
            UP, 1991. Print.
Kahane, Claire. “The Gothic Mirror.” The (M)other Tongue: Essays in Feminist Psychoanalytic
Interpretation. Eds. Shirley Nelson Garner, Claire Kahane and Madelon Sprengnether. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1985. 334-351. Print.
Jackson, Shirley. The Haunting of Hill House. New York: Penguin, 1959. Print.
O’Grady, Helen. “An Ethics of the Self.” Feminism and the Final Foucault. Eds. Dianna Taylor
and Karen Vintges. Urbana: Illinois UP, 2004. 91-117. Print.
Punter, David and Glennis Byron. The Gothic. Malden: Blackwell, 2004. Print.
Spacks, Patricia Meyer. The Female Imagination. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1975. Print.
Yaeger, Patricia. Honey-Mad Women: Emancipatory Strategies in Women’s Writing. New York,
            Columbia UP, 1988. Print.

Works Consulted
Parks, John G. “Chambers of Yearning: Shirley Jackson’s Use of the Gothic.” Twentieth Century
Literature 30.1. (Spring 1984): 15-29. JSTOR. Web. 21 April 2010.
Rubenstein, Roberta. “House Mothers and Haunted Daughters: Shirley Jackson and Female
Gothic.” Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature 15.2 (Autumn 1996): 309-331. JSTOR. Web. 4 November 2009.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Elephant Man and Societal Fascination

What is, perhaps, most fascinating about Joseph Merrick's, aka John Merrick aka The Elephant Man, story is his rise to popularity and fame due to his grotesque, dare I say carnivalesque, body.  The fascination that surrounded Merrick, while is in part due to sincere pity and the longing to help the helpless,  was for the most part society's fascination for the different, the Other.  What is it that is most fascinating about a man who could barely speak, whose body so distorted it is hard to determine where limbs and joints come together?  Is it that Merrick's body symbolizes all the wrong that could happen to a man, reminding an individual of his luck?  That is, Merrick's body represents man's greatest fear; a fear that roots from man's inherent narcissism and vanity.

Merrick as symbol may be interpreted in many ways.  For Dr. Treves, Merrick symbolizes potentiality.  Treves sees Merrick as the manifestation of what science could be and could do.  As a mystery to solve, Merrick serves Treves' curiosity and the doctor's fascination roots from his own need to prove the extent of scientific prowess.  Though he becomes Merrick's friend, Treves' sincerity may be questionable.  Does the good doctor befriend Merrick to save him from an abominable situation or does he save Merrick to serve his own ego? 

One of Merrick's greatest advocate is the Princess of Wales, a powerful person who seemingly enlightens society about notions of charity and caring for fellowmen.  She is responsible for putting Merrick in the limelight, bringing attention to his situation and to the cause of helping the most helpless.  Yet, is her fascination for Merrick really only rooted in pathos, motivated by the goodness of her heart?  The same question could be asked of the high society that welcomes Merrick into their arms. 

Society's fascination for Otherness, for the Different Merrick, is exemplified in the scene where Merrick, seated with the highest people in society, watches a musical show in the theater.  At the end of the show, a lady announces that the production is dedicated to Merrick and the crowd receives the news with a standing ovation.  What is interesting about this scene is from a Bakhtinian point of view, the scene illustrates how the Other holds power, even if momentarily, within the carnivalesque space.  Yet, it may also be argued that the standing ovation dedicated to Merrick perpetuates his position as pawn of society.  He is merely a source of entertainment feeding society's fascination.

The movie ends with Merrick taking his own life.  But why?  Is it because as Other, like women, Merrick has no other solution but to end life?  That the only way he can ever have true agency is to take his own life.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Orientalism and the Displacement of Identity in Kingston's *The Woman Warrior*

In defining Orientalism, Edward Said claims that "[t]he Orient was almost a European invention, and had been since antiquity a place of romance, exotic beings, haunting memories and landscapes, remarkable experiences" (1991).  He further claims that "the imaginative examination of things Oriental was based more or less exclusively upon a sovereign Western consciousness out of whose unchallenged centrality an Oriental world emerged, first according to general ideas about who or what was an Oriental, then according to a detailed logic governed not simply by empirical reality but by a battery of desires, repressions, investments, and projection" (Said 1996).  Essentially, what Said illuminates is that Orientalism is a theory and practice that perpetuates and identifies Western culture as hegemonic, and Orientalism is a means to iterate "the idea of European identity as a superior one in comparison with all the non-European peoples and cultures" (Said 1995).  In short, Orientalism imposes a definition on non-Europeans, identifying them as inferior to Westerners.
In Woman Warrior, the effects of Orientalism, its imbeddedness in Western identity creates a conflict of identity for Maxine Hong Kingston.  Kingston, a Chinese-American who grew up with a traditional Chinese mother, is confused about her Chinese identity.  Kingston identifies being Chinese according to the Orientalist view of non-Westerners, admitting "I knew the silence had to do with being Chinese" (Kingston 166).  She believes that "[Chinese] voices were too soft or nonexistent," reiterating a lack of voice.  The irony in Kingston's situation is the powerful presence of her mother.  That is, Kingston's mother, Brave Orchid, is a strong, determined woman who defies the definition of Chinese women as meek and silent.  A Chinese woman who grew up in rural China, Brave Orchid exemplifies being Chinese and being woman as characteristic of power and determination, of overcoming obstacles and being matriarch.  In the relationship between Kingston's mother and father, the mother seems to hold authority, making decisions for the family; the matriarch of the tribe.
How ironic that Kingston does not take after her mother.  As a teenage girl, instead of looking up to her mother as an example to follow, she, instead, becomes inculcated with the Westernized view of Chinese girls.  This inculcation of Western ideals is apparent as Kingston confesses, "Normal Chinese women's voices are strong and bossy.  We American-Chinese girls had to whisper to make ourselves American-feminine. . .We invented an American-feminine speaking personality" (Kingston 172).  Kingston exposes how femininity and definitions are societal constructs perpetuated by those who believe in them.  This construction of definition is very much apparent in the Western view of Orientals, deeming them as Other, incapable, silent and without power.

Kingston, Maxine Hong. The Woman Warrior. New York: Vintage International, 1989. Print.

Said, Edward. Orientalism. The Norton Anthology: Theory and Criticism. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch.
      New York: W.W.Norton, 2001. 1986-2011. Print.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Final Paper Draft: The Indefinable Self and the Struggle for Meaning in Shirley Jackson’s *The Haunting of Hill House*

In his theory of individuals as homo-hermeneuts, Max Weber posits that “[l]ife should not be an ensemble of inconsistent beliefs and unconnected decisions and actions; rather, each life in its totality should unfold from the ‘inner core’ of the individual” (Chowers 70). The self, which Weber calls personality, is authored by an individual through struggling with and against external and internal forces. Only through struggle can an individual author meaning, taking the external and internal influences as parts of the continuous story of life. Indeed, life is a struggle and defining the self is an even bigger struggle, especially for women for whom an inner core seems non-existent. That is, to be woman is to be subject and object of a socially constructed ideal that is, at best, limited. This socially constructed image is imposed on women upon birth, before a time when, what Weber calls an ‘inner core’ has even had a chance to develop. Even if an inner core does emerge, it is already influenced, imbedded and manipulated with social and cultural ideals. Furthermore, the social imposition on and manipulation of women is perpetuated by the female examples that surround them; examples that have long been molded as the social ideal.
In their work The Madwoman in the Attic, Gilbert and Gubar illustrate how the social and patriarchal dichotomous construct of woman, as either the ideal angel or inconstant monster, is the cause of anxiety among women who are trying to find definition. Specifically, Gilbert and Gubar talk about the anxiety in female authorship because “for the female artist the essential process of self-definition is complicated by all those patriarchal definitions that intervene between herself and herself” (813). These feminist scholars claim that to liberate woman, especially the woman author, “women must kill the aesthetic ideal” and “kill the angel’s necessary opposite and double, the ‘monster’ in the house” (Gilbert and Gubar 812). In other words, Gilbert and Gubar emphasize that, yes, life is a struggle, but for women, the struggle is specifically to eradicate the social construction of womanhood and rewrite a new definition of woman; to author a new story of womanhood. The struggle of being woman and finding meaning in the female self is the central conflict for Eleanor Vance, the female protagonist in Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. Liberated from the oppressive influence of her mother and sister, Eleanor embarks on a journey towards recreating a self. Optimistic about her endeavor, Eleanor imagines recreation as an easy and even, romantic process. However, haunted by the ideals imposed by her mother, ideals reiterated by the history of Hill House, Eleanor discovers that authoring a self means to struggle against those ideals that have become core of her being. Essentially, the struggle that Eleanor encounters in The Haunting of Hill House is the female struggle that Gilbert and Gubar delineate in In the Madwoman in the Attic. Like Gilbert and Gubar’s definition of the anxiety of female authorship, the anxiety that haunts Eleanor is caused by the dichotomous image of woman that must be overcome in order to author a life story. To fail in the struggle is to lose authorship, and for Eleanor, this means to metaphorically and literally be killed.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

To Be Woman

like helpless creatures
we all are
women in chains
writhing and writing
in pain

In this video, Philip Scott Johnson compiles several different images of women in art; images that come from artworks spanning 500 years.  Johnson illustrates how art forms change but the image does not.  The illustrations of women in Johnson's montage are subtly similar with each other, either portraying woman as the angelic ideal or sinister, wicked, bordering, if not, monstrous.  While the dichotomy of angel and monster is subtle, it is nevertheless evident.  What is even more problematic is that while the image of woman in the video is dichotomous, it is also ambiguous which seems to illuminate the idea that woman is both angel and monster, ideal and wicked, impossible to tell apart.

This seemingly unchanging image of woman as either angel or monster, or both, is what, as Gilbert and Gubar claims, limits women writers.  In The Madwoman in the Attic, Gilbert and Gubar identify the anxiety of authorship and authority that women authors experience as rooting from the absence of appropriate female models in literary tradition to emulate.  They claim that "a woman writer must examine, assimilate, and transcend the extreme images of 'angel' and 'monster' which male authors have generated for her" (Gilbert and Gubar 812).  But transcending the static image is a difficult, almost impossible task, especially since the construction of woman and womanhood is perpetuated by the dominant majority of society.  To rebel against the construction is to condemn the self as the absolute Other because "[w]hat [woman's] history suggests is that in patriarchal culture, female speech and female 'presumption' - that is, angry revolt against male domination - are inextricably linked and inevitably daemonic" (Gilbert and Gubar 823).  Essentially, women who revolt against the constructed image of woman, in the eyes of patriarchal society, is merely to emphasize the monstrous side to her.

What choice, then, do women have?  How can they change the limitations imposed upon them?  How can the image be changed to something more dynamic and encompassing where women are more than angels and monsters?  How can woman change the definition that has imprisoned her even today?

Gilbert, Sandra and Susan Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic. Literary Theory: An Anthology.
     Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. 2nd ed. Malden: Blackwell, 2004. 812-825. Print.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bodies in The Jungle: Capital and Value in Physicality

     Like Michelangelo's The Last Judgment, Sinclair's The Jungle is a collage of bodies that are bent, muscled, pained, stretched, writhing.  However, while Michelangelo's purpose is to artfully recreate a biblical moment, Sinclair aims to illustrate the plight of the stockyard workers of Chicago.  With descriptions of working bodies drenched in animal blood and remains, poisonous fertilizers and filth, Sinclair evokes a picture of not only the working conditions of the Chicago meatpacking industry in the early 20th century, but also paints the living conditions of the workers who literally work themselves to the bone.

    Following the story of Jurgis, the novel's protagonist, the narrative illuminates the corrupted power of capitalism and how "survival of the fittest" is law in the stockyards.  As the novel describes the abominable working and living conditions of the stockyard workers, it too reveals the sad truth that the only value a working man or woman has is their bodies.  In this sense, capital is not only found in monetary value but is also found in a body's physicality.  The body is a  medium of exchange, measurable and dispensable, valuable only to the extent that it can perform work. In other words, the body has market value.  It can be sold in different ways.  The sad thing is that along with the body comes the soul.

       Observe the story of Jurgis who in the beginning, with his "mighty shoulders and giant hands," easily found work (Sinclair 6).  Jurgis who "could take up a two-hundred-and-fifty-pound quarter of beef and carry it into a car without a stagger, or even a thought" exemplifies the body with great value and capable of work (Sinclair 6).  That is, Jurgis's value as a worker is not measured by his competency or his eagerness to work but rather, the ability and capability that his muscular form represents.  Jurgis's body represents a body primed for production.  It is a body able to effectively produce manual labor.  Hence, Jurgis's value is not derived from his character as  a person but rather is derived through the productive capability his body represents.

    Because the body is the medium that dictates the worker's productivity, it also indicates when the worker has no value.  Such was the case for Jurgis who, after being imprisoned and taken advantage by the capitalist system, loses value and capital when his muscles wane.  Indeed, Jurgis realizes how "the world of civilization" was "a world in which nothing counted but brutal might, an order devised by those who possessed it for the subjugation of those who did not" (Sinclair 556).  In other words, if a man is not part of the capitalistic power then his value in society is determined by his physicality for it is the only medium of exchange he possesses.

  Essentially, The Jungle illustrates the dehumanization of men and women whose only real value in the capitalistic world is the economic productivity of their physical being.  Without money, power and knowledge, they are economic objects treated and identified as cogs in the capitalist machine. 

Sinclair, Upton. The Jungle. 1906. BBeB Book. 12/18/2009


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Marxist Ideology and *The Last Man on Earth*

I've seen this movie many times and each time, I ask the same question: What would motivate you if you were the last man on earth?  I've always wondered what motivates Vincent Price's character to keep on, toiling during the day ridding the remains of the city of zombies and enduring the long night under attack by the undead.  In a sense, why live on when there seems to be nothing left to live for?

In The German Ideology, Karl Marx posits that "[a]s individuals express their life, so they are.  What they are, therefore coincides with their production, both with what they produce and with how they produce.  The nature of individuals thus depends on the material conditions determining their production" (Marx 653).  Essentially, Marx argues that not only is a man's life measured according to his production as a citizen but that in the process of producing he is also creating his life.  That production means life is ongoing seems to be implicit in The Last Man on Earth.  Vincent Price's character keeps producing life, even when all of the city seems dead, as he actively moves around the city.  The last man on earth goes about his daily routines because to stop does not only mean to surrender to the undead but also, to stop means a life that meant nothing.

What is perhaps, more interesting is the end of the movie.  The last man on earth is killed by other living beings who have assumed that he is one of the undead.  These beings have not only found a cure against the zombie disease, but that cure is a vaccine that the last man on earth himself have been working on.  That is, someone else has found a cure and the last man on earth has failed his societal purpose.  Thus, he is killed off in the end because his failure marks him as unproductive; he is like the zombies who have no function in society, no production to mark them as living.  How appropriate that other living beings who did not witness the last man on earth's activity and productivity should be the ones to kill him.  After all, in their eyes, he is not a producing man and his life is worth nothing.

Marx, Karl. The German Ideology. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Eds. Rivkin and Ryan.
      2nd ed. Malden: Blackwell, 2004. 653-658. Print.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Exposing the Malleability of Language: Recreating the Bible in Shaffer's Equus

      Lyotard defines postmodernism as "incredulity toward metanarratives" (356).  He explains that from the postmodern view "[t]he grand narrative has lost it credibility" (359).   According to Lyotard, "[t]he social subject itself seems to dissolve in this dissemination of language games. The social bond is linguistic, but is not woven with a single thread. It is a fabric formed by the intersection of at least two (and in reality an indeterminate number) of language games, obeying different rules" (360).  Essentially, Lyotard describes the condition of language, within postmodern perspective, as dynamic, mutable and malleable.  Lyotard also expresses that intertextuality is part of the postmodern condition and that it is a concept that exposes the malleability of language because postmodernism's master assumption is that everything is dialogic and thus, language achieves meaning (if meaning is even possible) through playful intertextual relationships. 
     In Equus, Shaffer illustrates how language games are played.  With an intertextual reference to the Bible, Shaffer executes a revision of biblical language and ideology through its perversion by the character Alan Strang.  Alan creates his own religion worshiping a horse god he names Equus.  While there is a seemingly pagan implication in this god, the rituals Alan dedicates to Equus is Judeo-Christian based.  This is specifically evident in the language of the worship as Alan recites the genealogy of Equus ending with the statement "Behold - I give you Equus, my only begotten son!" (Shaffer 46).  This statement is reminiscent of, if not imitates, John 3:16 in the Bible.  Alan even imitates the rites of the Last Supper before riding out on "Equus."  What Alan essentially exemplifies is the conflation of the Christian religion his mother taught him with his own affinity and fascination for horses.  More importantly, however, Alan's rewriting of biblical language illustrates how anything based on language, especially narratives like religion, are easily manipulated and cannot be viewed as completely credible.  Moreover, the intertextuality exemplified by Alan's religion with Christianity shows how meaning is dialogic because for readers and audiences like us, we understand Alan's rites as it refers to the Christian Bible and our knowledge of that language.  That is, Alan's perverted religion is only meaningful to the extent that we can decipher it through its play with biblical language.  Simultaneously, Alan's religion as a means to question the dominance of Christianity becomes obvious as we recognize how Christian rites are perverted.

Lyotard, Jean-Francois. The PostModern Condition. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Eds. Rivkin and
     Ryan. 2nd ed. Malden: Blackwell, 2004. 355-364. Print.

Shaffer, Peter. Equus. 1973. New York: Scribner, 2005. Print.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Othering Difference: The Problem of a Heterogenic Society Obsessed with Homogeneity

 This video deplores the current popularity of plastic surgery among South Korean women.  Identifying the media and American influence as the roots of the problem, the video illustrates how these entities have created a culture of women obsessed with beauty and perfection.  The irony is that the video implies that this obsession with beauty as a source of power for women is a current phenomenon, a modern condition.  But haven't society always been obsessed with beauty?  Hasn't beauty as a source of power for women been condemned by feminism all along?
I argue that the problem is not just the obsession with beauty or beauty as a means for women to advance in society.  Rather, one of the problems with the popularity and accessibility of plastic surgery is the manipulation of society's heterogeneity into homogeneity.  With the current advancements in science, it has become easier to make bodily and physical transformations that use to be a dream.  Indeed, nowadays it is such an easy task to change one's appearance: becoming blonde one day, brunette the next; having blue eyes and then having brown.  In the case of Asian women, to become Westernized, with folds in their eyes, reshaped cheekbones and noses, and plumped lip,s is as easy as making a doctor's appointment.
Perhaps, the desire to look like a certain somebody is rooted in society's belief that "heterogeneous existence can be represented as something other" (Bataille 276).  In his discussion on heterology, Bataille evinces how "the heterogeneous world includes everything resulting from unproductive expenditure (sacred thing themselves form part of this whole).  This consists of everything rejected by homogeneous society as waste or as superior transcendent value" (276).  Essentially, Bataille illustrates how society functions within notions of homogeneity and those that transgress homogenic definitions are considered others, rejected and excreted.  Hence, homogeneous society desires to transform and manipulate the other into something closer to the rest, to assimilate the heterogeneous into the homogeneous.
However, in reality, the world is diverse and everyone is heterogeneous.  Bataille states that "[a]bove all, heterology is opposed to any homogeneous representation of the world, in other words, to any philosophical system" because "[t]he goal of such representation is always the deprivation of our universe's sources of excitation and the development of a servile human species, fit only for the fabrication, rational consumption, and conservation of products" (Bataille 274-275).  In this sense, what Bataille describes is the postmodern condition and that condition's "incredulity toward metanarratives" (Lyotard 356).  That is, there is no one way to view the world nor is there one way that the world should function.  The postmodern condition is one that celebrates difference embracing Bakhtin's philosophy that difference represents potentiality.  In his work on the theory of the carnivalesque, Bakhtin illuminates that the carnivalesque body in all its protusions and excess represents human potential, the potential of the self to always become; that the self like the carnivalesque is a site of becoming, of influx.  Like Bakhtin, Bataille emphasizes human-ness and the human condition as always of difference.
How ironic that current ideology is often thought of as postmodern, and yet society seems trapped in homogeneous philosophy.  At least, that is what the popularity of plastic surgery and the desire to be "Westernized" imply; that society desires to look the same, be the same, and think the same.  That is, the popularity of the desire to transform the body through plastic surgery shows society's compulsion to reject difference.

As something to think about, here is a glimpse of the nightmare society might soon fulfill.

Bataille, Georges. "Heterology." Literary Theory: An Anthology. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan.
    2nd ed. Malden:  Blackwell, 2004. 273-277. Print.
Lyotard, Jean-Francois. "The Postmodern Condition." Literary Theory:An Anthology. Eds. Julie Rivkin
    and Michael Ryan. 2nd ed. Malden: Blackwell, 2004. 355-364. Print.

MIDTERM: Modern Panopticism and Conflicts of Living in Peter Shaffer’s Equus

Modern man is a conflicted individual always struggling within the public and the private sphere, trying to be both a productive member of society and a free being living the life he wants to live.  This struggle and conflict of modern man is a central theme in Peter Shaffer’s Equus.   Leonard Mustazza, in his article “A Jealous God: Ritual and Judgment in Shaffer’s Equus,” claims that most of the play’s critics focus on “the Nietzschean distinction between Dionysian impulse and Apollonian order” (Mustazza 174).  He quotes Dean Ebner who argues that “the play makes a striking comment upon society by viewing  these longings of soul and body, of worship and sexuality, in opposition to corporation, parent, profession, and conventional religion which conspire subtly to thwart all mystery and ecstasy in modern life” (Mustazza 174).  Mustazza contends that the Dionysian interpretation of Alan Strang’s worship and ritual is influenced by Martin Dysart’s distorted perspective because the facts revealed in the narrative and by Alan Strang evinces that Alan’s peculiar practices is “based upon Judeo-Christian theology and rite” (Mustazza 174).  Essentially, Mustazza is arguing that Dysart projects his own desires upon his interpretation of Alan’s behavior because unlike Alan who has created his own mythology, Dysart is trapped in a world of governmentality and normalcy. 
The distortion in Dysart’s point of view and the struggle with self that Dysart faces illuminates Equus as a dialectic of modern man’s struggle between desire and responsibility.  While there are Nietzschean threads evident in the play, I argue that the conflict in Equus is reflective of a conflation of Michel Foucault’s philosophies on discipline, knowledge, power and technologies of the self.  In Equus, Peter Shaffer explores how man internalizes discipline and how that internalized discipline perpetuated by the societal gaze conflicts with man’s desire to be an autonomous being living life as a work of art.  This conflict is apparent both within the narrative and at the meta-level as it is reflected in Dysart’s monologues and confessions, and in Shaffer’s design to have the cast always present on stage symbolizing the presence of the panoptic gaze.
In Discipline and Punish, Michel Foucault uses Bentham’s Panopticon as a metaphor elaborating how modern society internalizes discipline through “the instrument of permanent, exhaustive, omnipresent surveillance, capable of making all visible, as long as it could itself remain invisible” (Foucault 560).  Discipline is instilled in society through a heterogenic dispensing of societal power where such “[p]ower is exercised by individuals and groups upon others, or, more precisely, upon their potential endeavors” (Chowers 163).  In this sense, an individual is simultaneously both disciplinarian and disciplined. 
In Equus, Shaffer illuminates the effect of societal panoptic gaze through the character of Martin Dysart.  Dysart is an entrepreneur of normalcy, a psychiatrist who is involved in the transformation of transgressive beings into normal, productive citizens.  He claims that “[t]he Normal is the indispensable, murderous God of Health, and I am his Priest” (Shaffer Act 1. Scene 19).  That is, Dysart recognizes his role in society as the dispenser of normalcy, as the maintenance man of social order.  His professional role is the reason for his consciousness of societal surveillance and expectations.  Dysart is very much aware that an individual’s worth is measured according to how he follows the rules of society and how much he contributes as a citizen, and that transgressing rules and expectations lead to consequences.  This awareness makes him acknowledge his own limitations.  He confesses that he feels “[a]ll reined up in old language and old assumptions, straining to jump clean-hoofed on to a whole new track of being I only suspect is there.  I can’t see it, because my educated, average head is being held at the wrong angle” (Shaffer 1.1).   The trapped feeling Dysart feels illustrates how “the imposition of discipline and punishment is accompanied by a whole dimension of unstated assumptions, of unsuspected consequences, of ethical and epistemological issues that are veiled from public view by the unquestionable authority of ideological guarantees” (Racevskis 97).  Dysart is a man who has fully internalized discipline, aware of what is expected of him and of the possible consequences if he dares defy social expectations.  The internalization of discipline is at the core of his identity, a part of him he cannot escape.
How aware Dysart is of societal gaze is further evinced in one of his nightmares.  In a monologue, Dysart describes a peculiar dream where he officiates a sacrificial ritual in Homeric Greece.  In charge of carving up children, he begins to feel nauseated.  He confesses, “I redouble my efforts to look professional” (Shaffer 1.5).  Dysart is afraid that his fellow officials will notice the change in his demeanor because he admits, “that if ever those two assistants so much as glimpse my distress – and the implied doubt that this repetitive and smelly work is doing any social good at all – I will be the next across the stone” (Shaffer 1.5).  Essentially, Dysart spells out how discipline is internalized: firstly, through the gaze of the other that carries expectations and second, through one’s own consciousness of expectations and one’s role in the maintenance of social order.  In a sense, Dysart’s nightmare illustrates how “power is in me as well as you, that it is internal as well as external, that I am responsible for its operation as well as you are” (Chowers 170).  There is no hierarchy in the dispensation of societal power as it is heterogenic, held by every member who keeps watch of themselves and of others.  Furthermore, there is no institution or law aligned with societal power; it is mainly in the hands of the citizens.  Power is merely an exercise of knowledge because “[t]he exercise of power perpetually creates knowledge and, conversely, knowledge constantly induces effects of power” (Racevskis 97).
However, in as much as knowledge and power regulates discipline, one’s awareness of this regulation effects the desire to live a life that is free.  In elaborating on technologies of the self, Foucault illuminates that “the possibility of societal transformation in the present was linked not simply to the genealogical disassembly of modern configurations of power; it was intimately tied to the creative activity of strong and free individuals intent upon living their lives as works of art” (Paras 127).  According to Foucault, “[t]he art of living is the art of killing psychology, of creating with oneself and with others unnamed individualities, beings, relations, qualities.  If one can’t manage to do that in one’s life, that life is not worth living” (Paras 129).  In other words, Foucault explains that a life worth living is one where an individual relates to others in a more personal sense.  A life of art is a life of creation where an individual abandons or, at least, questions social limitations, transgressing them by doing something dedicated for the self.  A life that is like a work of art, in other words, is a life of creating space for the self beyond social responsibility. 
The desire to live a life worth living is a strong one indeed, especially for Martin Dysart.  Dysart realizes that life has to be more than fulfilling responsibilities, than being a productive citizen and this realization materializes in his dreams of living a life of “fantastic surrender to the primitive” (Shaffer 2.25).  Dysart dreams of a life of passion, of complete surrender to instinctual desires.
Dysart’s further realization of his desires for a life that is more comes about through his acquaintance with Alan Strang, a boy put under his psychiatric care.  Unlike Dysart, Alan seems to be free from society’s panoptic gaze.  Dysart views Alan as a “boy [who] has known a passion more ferocious than [he has] felt in any second of [his] life” (Shaffer 2.25).  While Dysart is dreaming a life in mythology, Alan has created his own mythology.  For Dysart, Alan’s mythology and worship is central to the boy’s creativity and is the only thing linking the boy to life.  Dysart sees Alan as “a modern citizen for whom society doesn’t exist” (Shaffer 2.25).   That is, Alan seems to represent the idea that “it was the right of every individual to define the modality of his existence, to choose his way of being and relating to others” (Paras 126).  Alan seems to embody perfect autonomy where the self is primary to social responsibility and expectations.
But Alan is not a free being nor is he truly free from the panoptic gaze.  Whereas Dysart is held in place by the expectations of society, of his wife and even his friend Hesther, Alan is in the constant watch of the god he created.  Like Dysart who is immobilized by the societal gaze, Alan too is incapacitated by the all-seeing eye of his imaginary god Equus.  What Dysart’s and Alan’s situations reveal is the “’agonism’ between power and freedom, ‘of a relationship which is at the same time reciprocal incitation and struggle; less of a face-to-face confrontation which paralyzes both sides than a permanent provocation’” (Foucault qtd. in Allen).  To function as an autonomous being is to recognize how power and discipline is part of the equation because there is no such thing as being truly free without struggle.  Creating a self means appropriating power, questioning its authority but not neglecting its influence.  This is where Dysart and even Alan, fails.  Alan succumbs to the doctor who can kill his passion, to the doctor who does not really want to know what struggle entails.  And Dysart abandons his dreams and surrenders to his social responsibility.  Dysart admits, “In an ultimate sense I cannot know what I do in this place – yet I do ultimate things.  Essentially I cannot know what to do – yet I do essential things” (Shaffer 2.35).   The lack of knowledge or the abnegation of knowledge is what truly immobilizes Dysart because to attain a mastery of self means to acknowledge that autonomy is tied to knowledge and “the courage to know is ultimately the courage to recognize the contingency of limits and to begin to think beyond them” (Allen 39).  To master the self and to begin living life as if it were an art means to embrace knowledge and power, to acknowledge discipline, and in such embrace and acknowledgement, use knowledge and power to question the limits of discipline and society.
Autonomy is based on struggle, on operating within and out of power relations.  Freedom is not attained through creating a world outside of society but rather through questioning the structures that society imposes.  Autonomy is always deeply linked with knowledge and power.  Dysart fails at living a creative life not because someone or something reins him in, but rather his failure is defined by his lack of courage to use his knowledge, his power, and his discipline as points of transgression.  Dysart refuses to engage in struggle and a life of art is always about struggle; it is refusing to leave societal assumptions unquestioned.  As he kills Alan’s passion to integrate the boy into social order, he too kills his own passion falling back into his place within the order.

Works Cited

Allen, Amy. The Politics of Our Selves: Power, Autonomy, and Gender in Contemporary
Critical Theory. New York: Columbia UP, 2008. Print.
Chowers, Eyal. The Modern Self in the Labyrinth: Politics and the Entrapment Imagination.
            Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2004. Print.

Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Eds. Julie Rivkin
            and Michael Ryan. 2nd ed. Malden: Blackwell, 2004. 549-566. Print.
Mustazza, Leonard. “A Jealous God: Ritual and Judgment in Shaffer’s Equus.” Papers on
            Language and Literature 28.2 (1992): 174-184. Print.
Paras, Eric. Foucault 2.0: Beyond Power and Knowledge. New York: Other, 2006. Print.
Racevskis, Karlis. Michel Foucault and the Subversion of Intellect. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1983.
Shaffer, Peter. Equus. 1973. New York: Scribner, 2005. Print.

Annotated Bibliography
Allen, Amy. The Politics of Our Selves: Power, Autonomy, and Gender in Contemporary
Critical Theory. New York: Columbia UP, 2008. Print.
In this book, Allen explores the different critical theories concerned with the politics of the self.  Using Foucaultian theories of power and self as a foundation, Allen argues that while “Foucault’s analysis of disciplinary and normalizing power has proven extremely fruitful,” such analysis also “generated a host of problems concerning subjectivity, agency, autonomy, collective social action, and normativity” (3).  With this premise, Allen explores the boundaries of epistemologies of the self from Foucault, Kant, Habermas, Butler and Benhabib.
Chowers, Eyal. The Modern Self in the Labyrinth: Politics and the Entrapment Imagination.
            Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2004. Print.
Chowers explores entrapment as a theme and as a condition of modern man. He argues that “[e]ntrapment refers to the predicament wherein social institutions, which are perceived as overpowering and inescapable, sap moderns of their distinct identities” (2).  In this book, he discusses the different theories of power aligned with Weber, Freud and Foucault, examining how these theorists illuminate the connections between power and the modern self.
Mustazza, Leonard. “A Jealous God: Ritual and Judgment in Shaffer’s Equus.” Papers on
            Language and Literature 28.2 (1992): 174-184. Print.
In this article, Mustazza argues against criticisms on Equus that sees the play as a “Nietzschean distinction between Dionysian impulse and Apollonian order” (174).  He contends that these interpretations focus on Dysart’s distortion of Alan Strang’s ritual and worship.  Mustazza argues that “too much critical attention has been paid to Dysart’s interpretation of events and not enough to the facts that lie before him” (175).  Hence, focusing on Alan Strang, Mustazza traces the Judeo-Christian threads in the play and the implications of those threads to reveal that Alan’s main conflict is one against a ‘jealous God’ (184).
Paras, Eric. Foucault 2.0: Beyond Power and Knowledge. New York: Other, 2006. Print.
Paras labels this work as “the first broad-based historical study to make full use of Foucault’s lecture courses from the College de France” (2).  Tracing the evolution in Foucault’s philosophy, Paras illuminates how the philosopher “abandoned his hard structuralist position and later embraced the ideas that he had labored to undermine: liberty, individualism, ‘human rights’, and even the thinking subject” (4). In these terms, Paras studies Foucault’s later philosophy which focused on the self, living life as a work of art, and meditations on death.
Racevskis, Karlis. Michel Foucault and the Subversion of Intellect. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1983.
In this work, Racevskis delineates “the critical relation Foucault’s discourse maintains with the intellectual traditions that have produced our civilization and its truths” (15).  Working with several of Foucault’s texts, Racevskis explores the archaeology and genealogy of Foucault’s philosophy and the philosopher’s use of archaeology and genealogy to trace society’s relation with power, knowledge and discipline.